The Heidi Chronicles, Chapter 45: Heidi lands a 'webisode'
In the previous Heidi Chronicles, Heidi the aspiring actor had gone to an open call audition -- here, girl! -- for a TV reality show in development, intended to give rescue dogs like Heidi a shot at a Hollywood career. Even though the project may never see the light of day, we were happy to wait in line behind small, hairless pooches wearing itty-bitty sweaters in order to be part of the process.
But yo, dogs -- just as Heidi was recovering from the excitement of being part of a showbiz cattle -- or is it canine? -- call, the shepherd got offered a real part: playing the "mean dog" in the first webisode of a new web series called "Sir Glen of Glenwood" for Performing Arts Studio West (PASW) of Inglewood, which offers career training and management for actors with developmental disabilities.
Heidi was already a friend of the studio. She was the first dog -- in fact, so far, the only dog -- to participate in a studio improv class, thus putting the PAWS in PASW (sorry). I'm told that one of the younger actors, Christy Chew, fondly refers to Heidi as the dog "with the substantial tail."
Studio founder/director John Paizis -- pictured (left) with Heidi and Chardell Brown, director of photography for "Sir Glen" -- told me that Heidi's job would be to bark at actor Glen Poehlman, who stars as the knight in shining armor, then chase him through an alley and a park. A speaking part! We immediately started rehearsing.
But just as Heidi's bark was beginning to sound suitably menacing, I got an e-mail saying that Heidi would also be asked to snarl and growl, curling one threatening lip. That, however, is above Heidi's skill level. I tried tucking cream cheese, her favorite, under one lip so it would appear that she was licking her lips in preparation for attack, but she just looked like a German Shepherd eating cream cheese.
I contacted Heidi's trainer, Sue DiSesso, to see if she had the snarl device we'd once tried on Heidi to give a friendly dog a fierce expression, but DiSesso could not immediately locate it; most trainers make their own devices, so I couldn't run out to buy one. DiSesso suggested we try what some trainers do -- put a rubber band around Heidi's muzzle and then loop in under her front fangs, thus lifting her lips (the dog is wearing it in the top photo). But it was only a matter of seconds before Heidi began frantically pawing at her nose to get the rubber band off.
But, no matter -- "Sir Glen of Glenwood," it seems, is more "Spamalot" than serious business. Never mind that Heidi doesn't growl, and is really much too clean, healthy and friendly to actually be a vicious stray. This knight is a middle-aged man who believes he is a knight from the middle ages (the photo at right is Poehlman in costume). He lives in the inner city and spends his days trying to do good deeds, often to the dismay of the community.
Heidi made it through the "speaking" part just fine, but her strong suit was the chase -- all we had to do was throw her favorite rubber ball to send her flying as if in hot pursuit of the hapless knight. In one alley scene, we gave Poehlman the ball to carry, leading Heidi to not only chase Poehlman, but jump at him as she tried to recover her toy. Luckily, Sir Glen is always armed with a plastic sword.
In an upcoming chapter, we'll show you the video.
-- Diane Haithman
Photos by Randy Klinenberg